Meet Me in New York

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Chapter 5: Chaos at McDonald's

Officer Charlie Strauss sits in the front seat. His hand grips on the steering wheel. Left foot on the gas pedal. Ragged tires screech on the dark gray pavement. Police sirens roar in his ears, as Charlie tries to locate an abandoned warehouse.

Sitting across from him is an awkward rookie named Oliver Copperfield. His blonde hair dance past his large ears. His green eyes focus on the grimy windshield until Oliver sees Charlie communicating to his Walkie-Talkie.

"Charlie," Oliver screeched. "Where the hell are we going? The boss told us we need to go to New Square!"

His partner didn't answer. He is too busy swerving around cars as if the whole thing is an 80s arcade game. Digging his fingers into the black seat, Oliver prays Charlie won't hit an old pedestrian or a homeless woman. The suburbs of New York City is no place to be causing car accidents.

Peeping at the honking cars behind him, Charlie holds the reins. The speedometer declines from 110 to 87 mph. His posture shifts from frantic to calm.

Ugh, thank God. Oliver thought. He leans his back against the chair. His stomach gurgled, forcing him to cover his mouth. He hated fast rides—always have, always will. The last time he went on one was during a class trip. His shitty friends pressured him into going on the bumper cars. He got so nauseous that he threw up on Maggie Elmers.

Oliver expresses a groan. He wishes he can build a time machine so he can make the event disappear. But all he thinks about is his boss's ominous stares.

Charlie casts him a reassuring look. "Sorry, but—"

Ammunition rudely interrupted him by hitting the windshield. The cops flinch. Bits of glass shards rain on Charlie's wrinkled pants. They tumbled on the floor, sprinkling the soiled mats.

"Holy fucking shit!" shrieked Oliver. "What the hell was that?"

"Maybe it's the guy we've been looking for," Charlie murmurs, before starting the car.

A red BMW spirals past three stoplights. Three more cop cars zip after the vehicle—along with a helicopter hovering over the road. Charlie drives after them. Oliver fumbles with the gun in his holster as cop cars open fire on the BMW, but the car persists.

An unidentifiable passenger rolls his window down and attempts to fire his weapon until Oliver shoots him in the face. The passenger slumps in his seat with his arm flying out. Blood snakes down the glass, upsetting the other drivers.

"Holy shit!" Charlie whooped. "Nice shot!"

Oliver empties his revolver, pulls out a pack of ammo, and shoves it in the slot. He fires at the wheels but the BMW is too quick. It maneuvers around a moving truck and steers to the left, where traffic flourished like a virus.

"Jesus Christ," Oliver grumbles. "Do you think we can catch him?"

Charlie spots the helicopter pursuing the BMW then shakes his head. "If we continue to chase after this asshole, then the car will run out of gas."

"What?"

"We can't interfere." Charlie insists. "Besides, they can handle it themselves."

1985 was the year Charlie became the greatest police detective in New York. He used to be respected; he had charisma, sharp intellect, and friends he can count on. Now, he is the washed-up version of that person.

Sighing he steers across 341 5th Avenue, where he discovers a McDonald's restaurant—not too far from where he is driving. So, Charlie slides his police car between two pickup trucks before parking behind the curb.

He opens his side door then shouts at Oliver to come outside.

"Why?" an inquisitive Oliver asks. "Shouldn't we return to the station?"

"We will," Charlie assures him. "After we get some lunch first."

Oliver groans. He yearned for excitement. He spent hours on desk duty, while his co-workers brag about their accomplishments. But now, Oliver is ready to make a name for himself in the police force. If only Charlie doesn't act like a pretentious dick all the time. Crawling out of his seat, Oliver follows his colleague inside the restaurant, where hungry customers stand in front of the depressed cashier.

Her copper brown hair is in an arduous updo; her deep blue eyes drift from the customer to the screen. She wears a dark red polo shirt, a black visor, a pair of matching black pants, and white tennis sneakers.

Funny, Oliver thought. She looks a lot like Charlie—except he has an untamed beard and birthmark on his left temple. Could this be his daughter?

Sneaking a peek of the cops entering the restaurant, the ravenous customers trade fearful looks at each other and avoid them as if they were the Bubonic Plague. Whispers shroud REO Speedwagon playing in the background. Tension cuts through the stench of lukewarm fries like a knife, scaring Oliver.

In the meantime, Oliver wanders behind him like a scared child clinging onto his mother. He can feel people's eyes penetrating through the back of his skull.

"What the hell is going on?" a person mutters.

"Did someone get shot?" wailed an old man.

Questions continue to bubble inside the patrons' heads until Charlie walks up Leah Clarke standing behind the white counter.

"Hey, kiddo." he greeted.

Leah straightens her sluggish posture. She wipes the gunk from the corner of her eyes, then puts on a weary smile.

"Hey, Charlie." she greets boredly. "Do you want the usual?"

"Not right now. I need to ask you about something."

Leah glances at the vicious crowd behind him and circles her eyes. This wasn't the first time Charlie had cut corners. From getting in front of the line at McDonald's to seizing free airplane tickets, Charlie always comes up with ways to cheat the system.

"Charlie," she yawns. "As much as I want to get fired, I am trying to save enough money to buy an apartment."

That's when Charlie stares at her funny. "Aren't you staying at Paige's?"

"Nope. She and I broke up."

"Shit."

"Shit indeed," Leah says in agreement.

A concerned Charlie presses his elbows against the counter. His blue eyes search Leah's face for any signs of depression, but as usual, she never shows it.

"Are you okay, kiddo?" he asks in a concerned tone.

"Yeah."

"Why don't you move in with me?"

"Thanks, but I can't." Leah yawns. She adjusts her black visor on her head then adds: "I am crashing in Scott's place."

Scott Walker—just the name makes Charlie's skin crawl. Like Holden, he was a member of Leah's high school band Proximity, an A+ student, and went to college. But for some unknown reason, Scott left the school.

"Scott Walker?" Charlie nearly drops his jaw. "Scott Walker is a bum."

"No, he isn't."

"Scott dropped out of Harvard!" Charlie scowls. "He works in a Pizza Hut restaurant. Come on, I want you to move in with me."

"And I want to marry Brandon Boyd, but life is full of disappointments."

"Who?"

"He's the singer of Incubus." Leah groaned. "I can't believe you don't remember that."

Charlie gives her a strange look. "I can't believe you had a thing for Courtney Love."

Leah rolls her eyes. "Anyway Charlie, I have bitchy customers to feed. So, can you stop worrying about me?"

Biting his lower lip, Charlie went silent as Leah types a couple of computer keys and peers at the screen.

"Okay," she says angrily. "That will be $47.68."

Silent, Charlie reaches into his wallet and brings Leah the cash. Meanwhile, Oliver studies the young woman intently. Sweat and greasy smudges her outfit, but she looks like a delicate figurine carved in ivory. He glimpses at her thin eyelashes and dark brown freckles then ask how old she is.

"I am twenty-two," Leah replies.

"Oh," said Oliver.

Leah's eyes broaden. "Oh? Happy birthday."

"Thanks, but it's next Saturday."

"Cool."

Charlie places his hand on Oliver's shoulder and tells him they need to leave.

"Finally!" an angry redneck yelled from behind a pregnant woman. "We have been standing here for two hours!"

Leah ignores him. She places the wrinkled bills in the register and hands his godfather his receipt.

After she pours two cups of Coca-Cola, Leah stuffs two boxes of French fries and cheeseburgers into a large paper bag then delivers it to Charlie.

"Can you pick me up after work?" Leah asks Charlie, who gives her a fatherly smile.

"Okay." he nods. "If you need anything else, feel free to call me."

"Cool."

After he takes the bag of lunches, Charlie grabs Oliver and leaves the premises. After that, the anxious crowd resumes barking orders at an irritated Leah. One middle-aged Hispanic woman steps forward and demands a sausage burrito whereas her friends wanted an iced latte.

Leah fills everyone's order until Jeremy Herman bursts through the kitchen door. His blond ponytail swishes across his back. His vapid brown eyes seduce customers as he entertains them with jokes and smiles.

"I am so sorry for the hassle," he laughs, shoving Leah aside. "If you guys need anything. Just let me know."

"What the hell are you doing?" Leah hisses.
Jeremy hands the receipt to an overweight customer. "Until my dad promoted me."

Leah drops her jaw. "Say what?"

Why the hell is she surprised? His father is the executive who runs McDonald's and owns half of China. But then again he's a conceited narcissist who tries to get inside Leah's pants. After the crowd dissipated, Jeremy tries to leave when Leah grabs his arm then pulls him close to her.

"We need to talk," she tells him. "Right now."

Jeremy makes an irritable face. He tries yanking his arm away from Leah, but she refuses to let him go.

Instead, she drags him into the break room, where the janitor sits alone at an empty table eating his soggy tuna sandwich. He didn't seem to care about the twenty-something-year-olds invading his temple, or the clogged toilets in the girl's bathroom. All he seems to care about is his sandwich.

"I thought I was getting a promotion," Leah growls.

"Are you kidding?" Jeremy snickers. "You think my dad wants to promote you as the manager?"

"Fuck you, man," she snarls. "I have been working in this dump for two years! I haven't complained or done anything wrong!"

Jeremy shakes his head. "You let your godfather cut in front of the line again."

"Doctors have diagnosed him with liver cancer, Jeremy," she lied. "He has two weeks to live."

"Really?" snorted Jeremy. "Because I can fire you for lying to me."

"Coming from the egotistical jackass who paid a guy to do his SATs for him in high school." Leah retorts.

Jeremy's face went pale. He flicks his gaze at the bored janitor and demands that she needs to keep her voice down.

"Ugh, whatever." Leah scoffs. "Anyway, my rent is due in two weeks and I am running low on gas."

"So?"

"So, I need a raise."

Jeremy cocks his head to the side. "What?"

Leah leans her back against the door. "I come here every day, and yet your dad doesn't pay me. Why is that?"

"Because you look like a mess."

"Really? No shit." Leah snaps. "What gave it away? Is it the sweat underneath my armpits? Or is it the stains from cleaning the urinals all day?"

"Wow, with that attitude," he snorts. "It's no wonder your girlfriend dumped you."

"Shut up."

"Maybe if you slap on some makeup and put a smile on your face, then she might reconsider taking you back."

"Oh." Leah's face fell. "Did he say that to his mistress before or after she sat on his face?"

"Watch it, Leah."

"Yeah, you're right," Leah agrees coldly. "I mean it's no secret your dad is a masochist."

Jeremy scowls then reaches into his pocket for a carton of cigarettes. He plucks a white cigarette with his fingers and sticks it in his mouth.

"You'll get your paycheck soon," he tells her. "In the meantime, go do your job."
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